Thursday, May 25, 2017

Asshole, Picture Of.

NATO summit. Where he also repetitively lectured our allies. Over and over.

Challenge: how many times can you watch that gif before catatonic depression renders you immobile?

Propaganda And Stuff

My upcoming newspaper column:
In fifth grade, my teacher talked about how propaganda works. Reporting results of an automobile competition, he told us, Pravda, the Russian state newspaper, said a Russian car came in second while the American was next to last. There were two cars in the contest.  
I thought of it as I read about Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where, like presidents before him, he was given their highest civilian honor. (Saudi Arabia, let’s recall, was the home of nearly all the 9/11 attackers, and is not exactly a world leader in human rights.) Will he bow, I wondered: and if he does, what will we hear from those who excoriated President Obama for it? Well, the results are in. Not only did he bow, he dipped his knee. Curtsied, but for lack of a tutu. However, if you get your news from Fox this is the headline you saw: “Trump shakes hands with Saudi leader, doesn’t bow as Obama appeared to do.” 
And that’s how it’s done. Posting a picture of a different gathering, they lie by telling a different truth. It’s what they’ve done since inception. That, and straight-up lying. Letters to the editor confirm how effective it’s been in cultivating disinterest in accurate news. “Pravda” means “truth.” Fox pretends it’s fair and balanced. The space between them is too tight for Trump’s medallion. Next day, during an interview, as video of the genuflection began, Jeanine Pirro motioned to cut, and cut they did. If Fox viewers want to see it (do they?), they may need another source. 
But you won’t need to look elsewhere than here to find something positive about Donald Trump. His speech in Saudi Arabia, before he got “exhausted” after two days, wasn’t as bad as most, once he got past his usual self-referential braggadocio. For one thing, he’s gotten better at reading a teleprompter. More importantly, his writers toned down his usual malevolent rhetoric about Islam and about the country in which he was standing, even referring to Islam as a “great faith” and to Saudi Arabia as “sacred land.” Rather than repeating “Islam hates us,” he extolled “shared values.”  
How will this fly with his base? Even some rational conservatives found it troubling. Trump also said he wouldn’t tell people of other nations how to live their lives or worship. That doesn’t apply back here, of course: for one example among many, it ignores his reinsertion of biblical testing into money spent on women’s health around the world. 
If he’s not detained for having visited a Muslim country, we’ll see if his tone devolves after returning home, and whether it will have influenced Saudi tolerance for home-grown terrorists. Coming at the perfect time to redirect the conversation from treasonous activities, for Trumpists the trip is bringing a tidal wave of relief.  
And yes, Dr. Freud, he also danced an all-male sword dance with Saudi princes.  
Signing a $110 billion arms agreement is within the tradition of reminding Saudi kings nothing they do can sour relations with us. By some measures, they’re what passes for a moderating force among Arab nations, and oil is oil; although Israel might have other perspectives. Surely, it’s unrelated that the Kingdom and the UAE simultaneously announced committing $100 million to the nascent fund for women’s entrepreneurship initiated by Ivanka. And let’s not dwell on what Trump once said about donations to the Clinton Foundation, because it couldn’t have been “Saudi Arabia and many of the countries that gave vast amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation want women as slaves and to kill gays. Hillary must return all money from such countries!” 
 When President Obama spoke in Egypt, he was criticized for “lecturing” when speaking for improving human rights in the region, and for weakness in not using the words “Radical Islamic terrorism.” Trump didn’t use those exact words, either. He did, however, make it clear he doesn’t care how Saudis and others behave within or outside their borders as long as we can do deals and if they get tougher on Iran. Since, under Trump, we’re backtracking on caring for our own people, one might even argue it’s a reasonable approach. If amoral, at least it’s not hypocritical. 
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Go For It!

Michael Flynn isn't a small fish, but it's likely he has damning things to say about much bigger fish. If there's a certain amount of stickiness in one's craw at the idea, I'd say it's worth letting the guy off the hook, giving him immunity, to hear what he has to say and see what he has to show. Otherwise, it'll be a Fifth of nothing, or not much. CPP agrees and, as usual, says it better. But I'd come to the same conclusion well before reading this:
... Pay him. Give him whatever he wants. Give him immunity and a ride to Capitol Hill in a golden coach pulled by snow-white unicorns. Arrange for the Black Sea dacha if he wants. If this investigation is going to be in the up and up, and if it's going to go anywhere, Michael Flynn holds most of the cards.
There's zero doubt the Russians interfered with the election in hopes of tilting it toward Trump and, around the country, various Republicans. There's only slightly greater doubt that there was covert collusion between Team Trump and the Russians. The greatest public interest is served by acquiring everything that can be learned about it.

The prospect of liar and reprobate Mike "lock her up" Flynn going free is depressing. Much more so, though, if people still working in the Gold House and the Ovaltine Office were to walk.

[Image source]

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Political Courage. And Eloquence

These words are unassailable. And, quite aside from the specifics, they're, just for for their eloquence, passion, clarity, bravery, and truth, a much-needed reminder of how regrettably the country has settled for the opposite in D.C. It's sickening.

I'd never heard Mitch Landrieu speak before. Now I know what I've missed.


I have a couple of theories.

First, regarding Trump's curtsey for the king: I think his handlers minders custodians sitters caretakers advisers had told him not to bow, but to remain vertical while bending his knees. Not being one to dwell deeply on advice or process information, he realized well into it that he was, in fact, bowing. Remembering his instructions, he began to bend his knee, but, as his cerebral axons slowly depolarized, realized it was too late.

Alternatively, he was dropping to his knees before he noticed it wasn't Putin and there was no unzipping involved.

Theory number two: while at the Wailing Wall, post pensive palpation, the note he stuck in there read "To whoever built this: Call me. I'd like a bid for making another one."

[Image source]

Monday, May 22, 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Amidst The Chaos, There's Still Trumpcare

My next newspaper column:
“This is who we are. This will define us.” Speaking truth for once, Paul Ryan chose those remarkable words to rally Republicans behind his brazen wealth transfer from the not-rich to the rich, disguised as a health care plan. His words were laughably dim yet absolutely accurate. It is who they are. It should define them, until elected Republicans return to sanity or the end of time, whichever comes first. Drowned in the latest execrable excretions from the Gold House, Trumpcare still struggles for life.  
It’s revealed truth on the right that the Affordable Care Act was “jammed down our throats,” hurried through with no hearings, no input or amendments from conservatives. Everything about that is false; even Nancy Pelosi’s infamous quote was taken out of context. It is, however, almost entirely true of Trumpcare. Some Republicans acknowledge the difference. Cobbled together in the basement of the Capitol, it was rushed to the floor with little input outside Paul Ryan’s circle and before it could be scored by the CBO or read by pretty much anyone. That introductory ruse would have yanked coverage from tens of millions. Nothing in the latest changes that. 
After eight years of cynical “our-base-will-believe-anything” repeal votes on Obamacare without proposing a replacement, their first depredation with Trump in power garnered 17 percent approval. (One assumes it represents those who’ll get enormous tax breaks, and those who don’t care as long as they’re unaffected.) Passing the House by a hair, the latest go-round pried loose a couple of vote switches by adding an amount to high-risk pools so paltry it’ll help about five-percent of people in individual markets with preexisting conditions. Unlike Obamacare, though, Trumpcare did achieve bipartisanship: twenty Republicans joined Democrats in voting no.  
Since the few Republicans willing to speak publically lie about it or offload such ignorance as “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care,” or imply it’s your fault if you get sick, they’re less than credible. Some data, however, are undeniable. 
Trumpcare gives the wealthy nearly a trillion dollars in tax cuts, paid for by cutting about the same from Medicaid. No matter how you parse that, it’s a servile gift to big donors and disaster for people who’ve counted on and received help for insurance coverage. Republican priorities couldn’t be more obvious. As a Virginia Congressman responded when asked about his constituents who said they’d been saved by Obamacare, “They probably didn’t vote for me.” Unsaid: “Or if they did, they didn’t donate enough.” (“This is who we are. This will define us.”) And he admitted not reading the bill. 
Also true: Trumpcare will severely raise rates on older Americans. Happily for Congressfolk who voted for it, the greatest impact won’t be felt till after the next election. Smart, if contemptuous, politics. It’s “states’ rights,” bray they. Freedom. To trust Medicaid funds to the likes of Scott Walker and Sam Brownback. Who’ve bankrupted their states. If you’re unsure whether or how Trumpcare covers preexisting conditions you’re not alone. Again, though, there are certain undeniable not-fake facts: high-risk pools generally produce unaffordable or meager, high-deductible coverage. The amount provided by Trumpcare to mitigate those higher premiums rounds off to a pittance. Watch this impressive woman enlighten her Congressman.  
Trump, Congressional Republicans, and their bewitched supporters deny all of this. If anything like it becomes law, though, there’ll be no need for speculation. Time and outcomes will clarify who’s right. (Hint: it’s Democrats. And the American Cancer Society, AARP, AMA, AHA…)  
If doubt remains about Trumpcare’s venality, it also cuts funds for special education. For those who wonder why, remember: “This is who we are. This defines us.”  
This continuing debacle affirms the need for single payer, sooner than later. Trumpcare is a boon to the wealthy and the never-sick. For everyone else, it’s calamity. But celebratory glee abounded in the Rose Garden. High fives! Dancing, on future graves! Trump reminding everyone he’s president! Electile dysfunction and premature congratulation is what it was, the Senate having already rejected the bill. In fact, because of Ryan’s rush, a revote might be needed. Which means citizens who bought Trump’s lies promising the opposite of Trumpcare have time to speak out. Is that who they are? What will define them?

  [Image source]

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Plant A Radish ...

It's beyond embarrassing: the US, the "indispensable nation," the "exceptional country," has elected a fking idiot. And this is what happens:
NATO is scrambling to tailor its upcoming meeting to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span. The alliance is telling heads of state to limit talks to two to four minutes at a time during the discussion, several sources inside NATO and former senior U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy. And the alliance scrapped plans to publish the traditional full post-meeting statement meant to crystallize NATO’s latest strategic stance. 
On May 25, NATO will host the heads of state of all 28 member countries in what will be Trump’s first face-to-face summit with an alliance he bashed repeatedly while running for president... 
... Trump has the alliance more on edge than any previous newcomer, forcing organizers to look for ways to make the staid affair more engaging. 
“It’s kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump,” said one source briefed extensively on the meeting’s preparations. “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re freaking out.” ...   
... After months of Trump’s threatening a radically new approach to global alliances the United States helped create, there’s nobody even charting a new course. Trump hasn’t appointed any high-level posts for Europe... With no middle management to give direction on a day-to-day basis, Europeans are struggling to decipher what the new administration wants from them.
“That’s where there’s a ton of panic in NATO,” a source told FP. “The United States put that issue forward, but it has nobody on tap who’s doing any sort of fresh thinking on that front.”...
It's a long article. It doesn't get any less embarrassing.

[Image source]

Thursday, May 11, 2017

If It Were Obama...

My upcoming newspaper column:
Wow. Is there any chance on God’s green earth or in the hot brimstone of Hell that a single Republican anywhere in the country, elected or sitting at home mainlining Fox “news,” would feel the same about the Trump-Russia nexus were it Obama-Russia instead? Had Obama, lying that he wasn’t under investigation, fired the FBI director who was investigating him, right after he’d asked for more resources for the probe? When a Grand Jury had issued its first subpoenas? Would they feel the same had the House Intelligence Committee, if led by Democrats, effectively refused to investigate? If neither the House nor Senate committees had hired adequate staff to conduct the inquiry with which they were tasked? Can anyone seriously believe the answer is yes? 
What if the firing of the FBI director had been “at the recommendation” of an Attorney General who’d promised recusal from the same investigation because he had his own connections to Russian operatives and lied about them at his confirmation hearing? What if the justification given for the firing were actions from months earlier, which Obama praised at the time? Would Mitch McConnell make excuses? Or would darker motives be floated like an armada heading to Pyongyang? 
What if Barack Obama declared, “I have nothing to do with Russia. No deals, no loans, no nothing,” and what if one of his children managing his businesses said, “Russia makes up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of our assets” and the other said, “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need from Russia”? Would Republicans find it inconsequential? 
What if Obama had appointed a National Security Adviser with undisclosed ties to Russia, fired by the previous administration, about whose unsuitability the prior president had warned him? What if, after the selection occurred anyway, the Acting Attorney General had gone to the White House to warn that that person was subject to blackmail but it took nearly three weeks to fire him; and only after the info had been leaked? Would Republicans pretend leakers were the only important issue?  
What if President Obama, before dismissing the FBI director mid-investigation, had fired the acting Attorney General who, among other things, was looking into communications between his people and Russia? Would there be no screams of cover-up, no broaching of the i-word? What if Obama both bragged about and denied a relationship with Putin? Would anyone argue that if President Obama surrounded himself with people who’d had major financial dealings and secret contacts with a geopolitical enemy there’d be no alarms raised? That if intelligence sources from an ally suggested the same rival had compromising information on him, Republicans would be untroubled? 
What would be the response, were it known that Russia had directly interfered in the election for the purpose of helping Obama win? Would our friends on the right pass it off as insignificant? Fake? Would they not perceive a serious future threat to our democracy, no matter which candidate had been the beneficiary? What if, right after firing the FBI director, Obama, leering like a toothpaste model, welcomed to the Oval Office the very Russians suspected of spearheading the election-tampering?  
Donald Trump, over whom serious unanswered questions hang regarding his relations with Russia and those of his campaign and hired hands, has now fired three people who were investigating, and one with direct involvement. He’s personally attacked the credibility of a central witness before her testimony to the Senate. His Republican majority in both Houses of Congress have stonewalled, refused to investigate, or, at hearings looking into it, changed the subject. None of this bothers average Republicans? 
We, all Americans, need a brave, independent investigator. (Sally Yates springs to mind.) With this Congress, though, we know it’ll never happen. Maybe in 2018, if voters wake up.  
So it falls upon journalists to do the work abdicated by Congress and quashed by the president. Which explains why Trump endlessly attacks them as fake, as “the worst people on earth.” Trumpists swallow it, crook, lie, and twitter, even as his actions increasingly mirror those of the dictators he so admires. Their acquiescence to the implications for America’s democracy, and their unprecedented level of hypocrisy are as ominous as they are indefensible.  
[Image source]

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


In the past several months James Comey has stepped on his dick more than a few times. However, unless proven otherwise I'll believe his firing is because he was getting a little too close to the truth in investigating Trump's Russia connections.

House Republicans never even pretended to investigate; during the Yates testimony all the Senate Rs wanted to do was steer the conversation elsewhere. And now Comey's gone. So if we're ever going to learn about Trump and Russia, it'll be up to old-fashion reporting by those "failing" and "fake" news organizations. It might have to be the ones in Europe that are on the case.

For now, though, Trump, his Attorney General, and his Congressional lackeys are doing everything in their power to shut it all down.

But who knows? Maybe there'll be people in the FBI willing to keep at it. Or leak. Hard to believe anyone Trump appoints to replace Comey will carry out an impartial search for truth.

Once, We Had A President

The contrast with Trump makes me weep. As does Barack Obama's description of people with courage, compared to the Congressional Rs who, out of weakness, out of greed, out of simple nastiness, voted for Trumpcare. Likewise his point that it takes no courage to help those not in need of it; but, especially nowadays, it takes major political courage to help those in need.

Barack seems a lot more optimistic than I am. I guess I should defer to his judgment. I would if I could.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Words Fail

[Note: I wrote this a few days ago when I first heard. Still no evidence to discredit it.]

I've heard it said that the English language is the richest, the most compatible with poetry, with descriptions of our world. Being (at one time) semi-fluent in none other than Russian, I have no basis on which to judge the claim. (I do prefer the sound of spoken French and Italian, though; and Russian, despite its somewhat percussive quality, can be lovely. Just for the way the words feel as I say them, I love to recite a Turgenev poem: gor'niye vershee'ni, spyat' vo tmye' nochnoi'... Sounds way better than it reads. Unless someone is singing it. It means "Mountaintops." But it's really about death.)

And yet l find myself flummoxed and frustrated. There simply aren't words yet invented to convey the depths of Donald Trump's venal assholery. He's a surpassingly despicable human being, lacking any characteristics that could be called attractive, empathetic, or honorable. He is the turd in the punchbowl, the breath of a shit-eating dog, the scum that rims an uncleaned toilet bowl. He's the green drip of gonorrhea staining unwashed underwear. He's the sebum that accumulates behind the ear, the bathroom mirror of a teenage pimple popper. See? Inadequate. Or maybe it's just me.

In this case, I refer to his most recent act of narcissistic scumbaggery, akin to defecating in the middle of a museum. That bag of rotting entrails of week-old roadkill pressured the government of Argentina to cancel an award, its highest for civilians, the equivalent of our Presidential Medal of Freedom, granted to Jimmy Carter for his work in defense of human rights.

Snopes calls the claim "unproven." OTOH, it was reported by a major Buenos Aires newspaper. I guess we'll learn eventually if it's false, in which case I retract everything but every one of the wholly inadequate words I used to describe him here. They apply to virtually every act he's taken; especially his heartless, destructive executive orders, displayed underneath his smug face. And now to the despicable tax break for the rich, disguised as a "health care" bill he just celebrated with House Republicans, may they rot in hell.

It's enough to make me wish I were a believer in that particular location. Or, at least, had a better vocabulary.

[Image source]

Friday, May 5, 2017

By George!

Pompous he may be, but George Will is unquestionably a true conservative, so this column about Donald Trump ought to be satisfying to those of us who miss the times when such people were more plentiful. They may have been often wrong, but weren't insanely unbalanced:
...What is most alarming (and mortifying to the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated) is not that Trump has entered his eighth decade unscathed by even elementary knowledge about the nation’s history. As this column has said before, the problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something... (emphasis mine.)
That's a pretty damn important point. Will refers to it as a "dangerous disability," and he's right on. It must be entirely unprecedented in a president. It's not stupidity, per se. It's the looseness (or absence) of a screw.

Might the time come when the dangers of Trump's disturbed mind become obvious to enough of his voters and his apologists in Congress that they'll join George Will in recognition? And do something about it? I don't know. But I do know what it is to know.

[Image source]

Thursday, May 4, 2017

An Unwell Mind

My upcoming newspaper column:
Sometimes even I have thought my writing about Donald Trump is overheated. Not anymore. As we slump into the next hundred days, I realize I’ve been too gentle, soft-pedaling the obvious about Trump and those who still defend him. (None of my conservative friends voted for him.) It’s now undeniable the President of the United States of America has an unwell mind. Plus, he’s the most grotesquely ignorant person ever to occupy that office: and, were he to get his way, the last. For one of two reasons so obvious they don’t need saying.  
The mind of Donald Trump, our actual president, recently generated the fiction that no one asks why the Civil War happened. Donald Trump, our actual president, is unaware of grade-school history through college degrees, books written, films made, on origins of the Civil War. Donald Trump, our actual president, said Andrew Jackson could have prevented it. Donald Trump, our actual president, said Jackson was angry about what he saw happening with the Civil War, and said, “There’s no reason for this.” Andrew Jackson, who was also a president (and, despite Trump saying he “had a big heart,” promoted unspeakable genocide and was an owner of one-hundred-fifty humans), died sixteen years before the Civil War. 
Who believes Andrew Jackson spoke contemporaneously (or at all) about it? Should we consider them ignorant, liars, or hearers of voices in their heads? Whatever our words, “presidential material” would not be among them. And yet, there he is. 
Trump, itching for war with North Korea, wanting to abandon the Iraq nuclear agreement, admirer of the planet’s worst despots including admitted murderers, claims the Civil War should have been “worked out.” This is governance by pinball machine.  
There’s worse. At his latest “tell me how great I am but first I’ll tell you” rally, Trump leveled his most nasty, divisive attack yet on the press and other scapegoats, like immigrants and Hollywood. On cue, the assembled laughed, cheered, and booed. In Trump country, Fox is the Decalogue, immigrants are evil, and “Rocky” was made in Nashville. 
His chief of staff admits they’re discussing how to weaken the First Amendment. Trump complains about the most fundamental of all constitutional principles: separation of powers. It’s too hard to get my way, he whines. How Congress works is outdated, he wheedles. (He feels differently about the Electoral College.) These are direct attacks on the Constitution, which was designed precisely to make change difficult; to prevent people such as he from taking dictatorial control. But oh, how his supporters, lovers of America other than how it works and half the people in it, overlooking the sinister implications, sing his praises. 
With our political process in full control of those with massive wealth, few means are left by which we regular citizens can protect ourselves and preserve the republic. Voting remains the most powerful weapon we wield. Facts are its ammunition, our free press the bandolier. Even in his disturbed mind, Trump knows this. His ceaseless lies and attacks on the media as fake are his way of disarming us, quashing knowledge of Russia collaboration, for example, and of impending plutocracy. Pretending the Second is threatened, he’d remove the First. That should disturb everyone, even today’s version of Republicans. Astonishingly, it doesn’t. 
Those still supporting Trump, the person, are belligerently blind. Some write to me, obediently repeating his lies. Agreeing the press is their enemy, they reject documentation as fake news. As long as he’s saying what they want to hear, they PREFER a leader who lies. And what they want to hear is – what’s the word? -- deplorable. It’s about “economic uncertainty,” people say. It’s about liberals “talking down” to them. (Being lied to, though: not a problem.) Baloney. It’s resentment of “those people” threatening their mythology, and Trumpists love him for giving it voice. Choosing enmity over enlightenment, when called on it, they claim their free speech is being threatened. You know, that thing Trump wants to punish in protesters and limit in the press. 
Americans who cheered Trump’s tirade, even as he built a wall between them and truth, endanger themselves as much as those about whom they don’t care. Trump counts on their indifference. Why hasn’t Andrew Jackson spoken up?  
[Image source]

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How To Lie By Telling The Truth

This is exactly what Fox "news" does, all the time. The numbers are accurate (in this case), the implication pure b.s. But it takes a paragraph or two to explain why, and Fox knows its listeners aren't into that kind of attention. Fox assumes its audience is stupid. (If they're right, is it chicken or egg?)

I bet there are lots of Foxophiles using that very list to make what they think is a persuasive point.

Wonder when Fox will get around to crediting Trump for the worst first-quarter growth rate of the economy in years. He has, after all, taken credit for the job creation in that quarter.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Shall We Also Raise Our Right Arm To Him?

This, from the man who'd break up the judiciary, who'd change the way Congress works, who regularly demeans our free press:
President Donald Trump on Friday proclaimed May 1 as 'Loyalty Day' as a way to "recognize and reaffirm our allegiance to the principles" upon which America was built and express pride in those ideals, according to a release of the proclamation from the White House.  
“The United States stands as the world's leader in upholding the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice. Together, and with these fundamental concepts enshrined in our Constitution, our Nation perseveres in the face of those who would seek to harm it," the proclamation reads. 
"We humbly thank our brave service members and veterans who have worn our Nation's uniform from the American Revolution to the present day. Their unwavering loyalty and fidelity has made the world a safer, more free, and more just place. We are inspired by their pride in our country's principles, their devotion to our freedom, and their solemn pledge to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." 
The proclamation goes on to say that in order to express our country's loyalty to "individual liberties, to limited government, and to the inherent dignity of every human being," May 1 will be known as 'Loyalty Day.'
Trump called on Americans to observe this day with ceremonies in schools and other public places, including reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. He also called upon all government officials to display the flag of the United States on all government buildings and grounds on May 1.
I suppose it's just coincidence that it falls on May Day, the Russian day of patriotism. Shall we expect parades of military hardware, too, like he wanted at his inaugural?

"Allegiance to the principles..." In a just world, had he spoken those words, they'd have burned through his tongue like hot coals and rendered him mute.

Okay, it didn't entirely start with him. But I hadn't heard of any president emphasizing it since Ike. And coming from Trump, "irony" doesn't begin to describe it.

[Image source]

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